2945. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 18 March 1817

2945. Robert Southey to Grosvenor Charles Bedford, 18 March 1817⁠* 

18 March. 1817

My dear G.

As soon as I had seen Wm Smiths speech in the Courier, [1]  I threw off a tolerably warm letter to the honourable & presbyterian member [2]  & inclosed it to Wynn, desiring him unless he disapproved its contents to forward it to the Courier. [3] Wynn I think will not quarrel with its warmth after such gross provocation. More might have been said but I did not like to lose the post, – & the Quarterly gives me fair opportunity to comment upon the practice introduced by such men as Brougham of slandering & insulting individuals in the H of Commons & then skulking under the privilege of Parliament from personal responsibility. [4]  The manner in which these fellows assail me is good proof that I have not written without effect.

It is for the consideration of the Grand Murray whether the accession of notoriety which has been forced upon me, like honour upon poor Malvolio, [5]  be not a good reason for embodying in a regular form the papers which have provoked xxxxxxxx <this> malignant & cowardly mode of attack, & laying before the public in full my views of the state of society, its whole danger, its real evils, & the means of mitigating & ultimately as far as may be possible xx of removing them. [6]  On the other hand very desirable as it is that this should be done, I cannot do it at present, because I have engaged to start with Senhouse (& I hope Nash) for the continent from London, on, or as near as can be, to the first of May. I cannot doubt but that the Book would have weight in the world, – for it x is pretty clear that on both sides the house they are disposed to think me a personage of more importance than I have the slightest desire to be in the political line.

Somebody defends me with a very inaccurate statement in the Courier, [7]  – & with no very skilful hand. Wynn I see made a reply to Wm Smith xxxx <but> by the manner in which it was reported <it> seems not have been very distinctly heard. [8]  – I hope he will send my letter to the newspapers, & half regret that I did not send it there myself without delay, or asking any persons advice. – It is strange that I should not have yet heard what is doing about the injunction, – or why nothing is doing, since the second affadavit arrived in London, which it must have done on Tuesday last, – this day week. [9]  – My ignorance upon this point prevented me from alluding to it in the letter. Whatever may have <been> done I beseech you pay Turner the costs as soon as he can tell you what they are. – And this mention of money matters reminds me of requesting that you will pay, or come to be paid for me into Rogers’s [10]  bank (Rogers, Olding & Rogers is the form if I read it rightly) five pounds towards a subscription for poor Robert Bloomfield.

The Grand Murray sans doubt will be well pleased to see his glorious Review referred to in the H. of Commons. To me I confess it is one of the ominous symptoms of the time that public journals should have this kind of consequence imparted to them.

God bless you



* Address: To/ G. C. Bedford Esqre/ 9. Stafford Row/ Buckingham Gate/ London
Stamped: KESWICK/ 298
Postmark: E/ 21 MR 21/ 1817
Endorsements: 18 March 1817; 18 March 1817
MS: Bodleian Library, MS Eng. Lett. d. 47. ALS; 3p.
Unpublished. BACK

[1] The Courier, 15 March 1817. Smith had denounced Southey in the House of Commons on 14 March 1817 in the debate on the Seditious Meetings Bill, condemning ‘the settled, determined malignity of a renegado’ and comparing Southey’s arguments against radical views in the Quarterly Review, 16 (October 1816), 227 with those expressed in Wat Tyler (1817), Act 2, lines 103–112. BACK

[2] Southey here refers to Smith as a ‘presbyterian’ as the latter was a prominent Dissenter and member of the Octagon Chapel in Norwich, whose congregation, though historically Presbyterian, was by this stage mainly Unitarian. BACK

[3] See Southey to Charles Watkin Williams Wynn, of 17 March 1817 (Letter 2944), which enclosed Southey to William Smith, 17 March 1817 (Letter 2943). The latter (Letter 2943) was not sent to the Courier for publication because Wynn’s absence from home meant there was a delay in his receiving it. By the time he did so, the public debate had moved on and Southey therefore decided to incorporate the letter into his pamphlet A Letter to William Smith, Esq., M.P. (1817). BACK

[4] Southey may be referring to Brougham’s speech in the House of Commons on 24 February 1817, when he contrasted the unwillingness of the government to prosecute Southey’s early radical play, Wat Tyler, for sedition, with its eagerness to pursue radical publications. BACK

[5] Twelfth Night, Act 2, scene 5, lines 145–146: ‘some have greatness thrust upon them’. BACK

[6] Southey was considering whether to use his Quarterly Review articles as the basis for a book on the ‘State of the Nation’. BACK

[7] A defence of Southey by Coleridge, entitled ‘Mr. Southey and Wat Tyler’, appeared in the Courier on 17 March 1817. BACK

[8] Wynn had spoken in reply to Smith in the House of Commons on 14 March, immediately after Smith’s attack. BACK

[9] In 1794 Southey sent James Ridgway (1755–1838) and Henry Symonds (1741–1816), radical booksellers, then in Newgate prison, a copy of his Jacobin drama Wat Tyler; see Robert Southey to Edith Fricker, [c. 12 January 1795], The Collected Letters of Robert Southey, Part One, Letter 123. Ridgway and Symonds did not publish it and it remained in manuscript until a pirated publication, designed to embarrass the now anti-Jacobin Southey, appeared in 1817. Having taken advice from Rickman, Wynn and Turner, Southey launched a suit in Chancery so as to gain an injunction suppressing the publication. His case was not heard until 18–19 March 1817. To support his case, Southey had sworn an affidavit on 8 March 1817. BACK

[10] Rogers, a banker and partner in Rogers, Olding & Rogers, as well as a poet, was co-ordinating an appeal to relieve the poverty of Bloomfield, who was ill and who had lost his royalty income owing to the bankruptcy of his publishers; see Southey to [Samuel Tillbrook], 22 December 1816, Letter 2883. BACK